By Jamie Goodwin
No increase in British bookings – but visitors are spending more on hotels and attractions
UAE residents are expected to upgrade hotels and entertainment plans during trips to the UK due to the slumping pound.
The value of the sterling dropped to below AED5 ($1.36) in the aftermath of the UK’s decision to leave the EU.
Despite this, an expected increase in bookings to British shores has not yet materialised, according to one online travel agent.
But UAE residents who had already booked trips to the UK are expected to splash out, said Michelle Smith of travel website Flight Centre UAE.
“We are definitely seeing an increase in interest to the UK,” she said. “In terms of travellers cashing in on the low exchange rate, this is most immediately being seen on the amount spent on experiences while in destination.
“The short-term effect is happening for travellers who have already booked their travel prior to the Brexit vote and are now cashing in on the exchange rate. So the intention to travel to London and the UK already existed. The Brexit [vote] hasn't triggered any immediate travel plans.
“We are seeing some customers opt for a four or five-star hotel option, when they would [usually] have opted for a three-star or less expensive option due to the exchange rate – effectively they are taking advantage of the opportunity to heighten their experience. However, the actual trigger to travel to London already existed.
“I think a lot of customers are reflecting this way of thinking and heightening their experiences in destination -- this is great news for the UK economy and tourism industry.”
Air fare prices have largely remained steady in the wake of the referendum due to the continued popularity of London and other UK cities to UAE travellers.
But lower prices in the UK and a stronger dirham could lead to more UAE residents booking British trips, according to Smith.
“London is consistently the most popular destination for both of our businesses (Flight Centre and FCM),” she said. “With 19 direct daily flights from the UAE to London alone, not to mention the flights via Doha and also to other UK cities, demand is already huge and we are definitely seeing this continue.
“In terms of booking flights, the cost of air fares to London has stayed steady so this has not affected demand.
“In the longer term, if the exchange rate does maintain at this level, it will position London and the UK as a more affordable city to visit. London in particular is notoriously expensive and many of our customers view it as an aspirational destination. With the lower exchange rate, travellers on the ground [are expected spend more on] expenses such as accommodation.”